“Dude, I vote patio.”
This was the subject of an email I sent to my husband this week. I went on. “The concrete guy was just here to give an estimate. We’ll have to take a huge chunk from savings but I think it’s worth it. It’s really a quality of life issue.”
Wait, a quality of life issue?
Now, here’s what I meant by that:
- Our current patio is miserable. It is flagstone in gravel, clearly a DIY job by the previous owners.
- The weeds grow faster there than they do anywhere else. I weed whipped our patio several times this summer.
- The unevenness of the gravel/flagstone combination has led to more than one chair nearly tipping over backwards when someone tries to stand up.
- The step from the door to the patio is 18 inches. Height that steps are supposed to be? 7 inches.
- Due to all these factors, we do not ever sit on our patio.
- We like to sit outside. We have a lovely view of the mountains in one direction and the prairie dogs in the other.
- Our neighbors and friends all have lovely patios and I feel ashamed of ours.
- We do not have a backyard tiki bar, which would be awesome.
But quality of life issue? I quickly amended my email to say, “obviously this is a first world problem,” because I felt ashamed of myself for using the words “new patio, savings, and quality of life issue” in the same sentence.
This is the kind of thinking that author Scott Dannemiller draws our attention to in his book “The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting.” The title is true to the book. Dannemiller takes us through the ups and downs of this challenge, which he and his wife embarked on after feeling disillusioned and discontent with a life that is largely driven by acquiring things.
Perhaps the most compelling part of Dannemiller’s story is the combination of revolutionary thinking and typical American living. I love the stories of people who cast off all materialistic concerns and live off-grid. I browse tiny houses on Pinterest and imagine buying 30 acres in the middle of nowhere where I can spend my days happily producing my own food. I cannot live that life, nor is it practical for most people. (Cities and towns exist for a sociological purpose, after all.) Still, I do want to live an intentional life and this gives me a way to think about being revolutionary in my own suburban American setting.
Dannemiller expertly blends his personal stories with research and theology. He talks about the challenges of raising children with real attention to the decisions we have to make. Obviously, we know that a new backpack isn’t a “quality of life” issue—or is it? We all want children who aren’t materialistic brats but we also want children who aren’t bullied, taunted and excluded due to their cast-off clothing. What’s a parent to do?
Jockstraps and underwear come up more than once in this book, reminding us that the political can be very, very personal. Dannemiller doesn’t shy away from the stories but tells them with all the grace possible when discussing undergarments. I was reminded as I read that many people do not have underwear, hygiene items or other things that make up the very basic part of our household. Solving problems of poverty and inequality are amazingly complicated, coming down to the most basic and unsexy things making a tremendous difference.
Most importantly, the book is inspiring, not scolding. I was two chapters in before I was ready to take on my own year without a purchase—almost. I might start with a month. (I did a week several years ago. It was harder than you think.) But the real point is that my commitment to being less materialistic was renewed and stretched. I will definitely start by implementing some of the less drastic ideas that Dannemiller suggests, and some of the solutions that they find along the way. (Heads-up, family, you’re all getting experience gifts for Christmas this year!)
Want a quick peak right now? You can also find Dannemiller over at his blog. Seriously, though..this book is worth reading.
As for Book Review Fridays–I don’t know whether that will become a thing here at Barefoot Family but I like the idea. I’d actually like the idea even more if other people wanted to read and write along. Any takers? Message me here or find me on Facebook if you’re up for writing about a book you loved.
Happy long weekend!